Interview: Paul Hickey & Justin Walters of Bespoke by Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan
Itís a classic situation: Young bucks learn all they can from the
seasoned veteran, and once they have, itís time for them to
move on, to put their own stamp on the horizon. Itís been true
all throughout time, and in this case, itís Wall Street instead
of the Wild West. Paul Hickey and Justin Walters spent time
at Birinyi Associates learning and absorbing all they could
from technician Laszlo Birinyi before going out on their own,
setting up Bespoke Investment Group in May 2007.
Paul Hickeyís professional experience in finance runs
the spectrum of equities, fixed income, and structured
products. He served over six years as a research analyst for
Birinyi, during which time he conceived and implemented
in-depth and original research projects on domestic and
global financial markets for institutional clients. His reports
and findings have been extensively featured in publications
including The Wall Street Journal, The New York
Times, The Financial Times, Barronís, and USA Today.
Hickey frequently appears on CNBC and Bloomberg TV.
Justin Walters was a research analyst and trader at
Birinyi Associates, and during his four-year tenure there, he
developed numerous equity trading strategies based on
proprietary fundamental and technical models that he created. His work on the underlying intraday and long-term price
moves of equities and indexes has been featured in multiple
publications and articles, and he has made appearances on CNBC
and Bloomberg TV. Prior to his departure from Birinyi, he also
headed the firmīs subscription level research product.
STOCKS & COMMODITIES Editor Jayanthi Gopalakrishnan
interviewed them via email on February 11, 2008.
Paul and Justin, tell me about
Paul Hickey: I knew I kets since I was eight and my school
went on a class trip to the New York
Stock Exchange. The energy was addictive,
and from then on I was into stocks.
After graduating from college, I was
hired in spring 1997 by Smith Barney
for their emerging market structured
products group. I started at Birinyi Associates
in summer 2000 where I worked
in equity research through April 2007.
In May 2007, Justin and I left to form
Bespoke Investment Group.
Justin Walters: Iíve been interested
in the markets since I was very young,
too. My father has been an advisor for
Morgan Stanley for close to 30 years,
and one of the first birthday gifts I can
remember receiving from him was a
stock certificate for 10 shares of Boston Celtics Limited Partnership. Collecting
and trading baseball cards when I was
six or seven was the start of my investment
career. I tried to be the ďboy
plungerĒ of my block as far as card
collecting went. Since then Iíve been
into trading and dealmaking.
What led to your decision to start Bespoke?
Working at Birinyi Associates was an
invaluable experience. We both learned
more about the markets there than we
could have possibly learned anywhere
else. One of the beauties about working
there was that we didnít just learn from
Laszlo [Birinyi], he encouraged us and
gave us latitude to pursue and develop
our own interests. We decided to make
the transition and start our own firm
because weíve both always had entrepreneurial
spirits. One of the great things
about working in the financial markets is
wanted to work in the marthat you always know exactly where you
stand. Itís similar when you are running
your own business.
Iím sure you learned a lot at Birinyi.
What did you learn there to help you
become good traders?
One theme weíve kept with us from
our time there is to always question the
source of any research or advice, and ask
as many questions as possible about the
agenda or bias of the writer. Currently,
Wall Street strategists are relatively bullish
in their outlooks, but they are always
bullish. The job of the firms that sign
their paychecks is to sell stocks. Similarly,
the rating agencies are under a lot
of scrutiny because they still have AAA
ratings on the monoline insurers, but
anybody whoís paid attention knows
about the inherent conflicts of interest
with the current system. The ratings agencies
are paid by the companies they cover.